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The times they are a-changing

“Your old road is rapidly aging / Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand / For the times they are a-changing.” – Bob Dylan

Oscar contender “The Artist” is a black-and-white homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, to that magic period when silent films were making way for talkies and when the entertainment world was on the cusp of the Next Big Thing.

Watching the movie recently at Malco’s Ridgeway 4, I was stuck by the similarities between the debonair leading man and his stubborn refusal to let go of his love of silent films – even as the world was so clearly changing around him – and the disruption of so many industries and businesses today.

We write about many of them at The Daily News. We are one of them, in fact. It’s why our social media specialist Kate Simone, for example, recently blogged about changes coming to memphisdailynews.com, including a video section and more information for our Web audience like details of Daily News seminars and events.

The pace of technology-driven change seems faster than ever. Everybody knows that. The more important thing to remember, though, is that it’s almost pointless to plan for it. The best you can hope for is just to keep yourself constantly agile and bendable enough so that when the Next Big Thing arrives, you don’t laugh it off like George Valentin, with his initial assumption that talkies won’t last.

This idea is the subject of the cover story in the current issue of Fast Company – “The Secrets of Generation Flux.” At one point, it references the world of software development and quotes from a book called “Building Data Science Teams.”

That book describes how software used to be developed by a team defining the product, another building mockups and finally engineers building it according to specifications. That’s the so-called “Waterfall” process. Increasingly, though, that process has given way to “agile” development – which allows more room for change throughout the product’s life cycle.

I’m fascinated to see how this all plays out. And it’s playing out everywhere. One of the ventures going through the soon-to-launch second round of the Seed Hatchery business investment program in Memphis is Paytopia, which is apparently going to attempt to bring some much needed change to e-commerce.

This is how Paytopia teases what it’s going to do on its website: “The payments industry inexcusably burdens small business. Paytopia is seeking zen in e-commerce: the balance of harmony between buyer and seller. Maintain focus…enlightenment is near!”

And in emails being sent out to users who sign up now, Paytopia writes: “We think you’ll love Paytopia because we, too, are merchants and we are fed up with the rigorous PCI compliance burdens and the ridiculously high fees that the archaic payments industry places on all businesses, despite the fact that the reasons those burdens exist are due to the weakness of existing payments systems! Our mission is to find a way to defeat the gargantuan regulatory issues that favor the banking industry in order to champion merchants’ rights to conduct business with fair competition among payment services providers.”

Meanwhile, PBS, which has been trying to figure out how to keep itself relevant and engaging, has discovered the elixir of premium content with its smash “Downton Abbey.” Social media is playing a big part in that.

An article on the front page of the Jan. 29 New York Times business section featured a deep dive into the precarious future of Barnes and Noble, which is the last of the mighty brick-and-mortar book retailers.

The point: B&N has taken some dramatic steps to keep it competitive with Amazon.com. And it’s working – for now.

Dansette

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